Strengthening the Canter - Suggestions? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 9 Old 03-02-2011, 01:35 PM Thread Starter
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Strengthening the Canter - Suggestions?

So I'm hoping the snow is going to start melting in the next few weeks and it's time to take fat little pony out of her winter retirement!

My mare is turning 6 this spring, but has only been under saddle for about a year and a bit.. none of that was consistent, she basically had 30 days of real training on her. So, I don't expect her to know a whole lot of anything, especially now that she has essentially had 3-4 months off (grrr.. moving her to somewhere with an indoor arena later this year!).

I had about 4 months this summer (time since I got her til snow) to work with her and she came a VERY long way, from choppy strided trot to long and low and I just got her nice and sharp.. BUT her canter really never got to feel like a natural gait. By the end I had her transitions pretty decent but she still was flat and unbalanced, would take wrong leads or cross-canter to the left and couldn't hold the canter for more than a couple rounds.

So this year a strong canter is my goal with her.. I know tons of upward transitions will help, but I'm looking for any other suggestions you guys have to get her feeling comfortable in the canter!
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post #2 of 9 Old 03-02-2011, 01:51 PM
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It sounds a little silly, but lots of trot work is the key to a good canter.

Try doing lots of circles and serpentines at the trot, encouraging her to bend and balance, making sure you aren't riding a motorcycle through the turns. Also transitions within the trot, and walk to trot transitions will be beneficial.

I, personally, do not canter my mare unless I am confident I will have a good canter. I can tell I will have a good canter because her trot work is balanced and steady. I have never seen the point in asking for a canter you know will be all over the place just to fight at the canter.

When you do canter, make sure you rock back and sit deep in the saddle. Don't accept a rushed transition, just go back to a trot and ask when her trot is nice and steady again. Keep a steady contact and half halt throughout your circle or along the wall, especially before corners. Since her canter is currently so terrible, I wouldn't ask for a lot of canter at first. Keep the first few times short and sweet, making sure to stop when she is feeling balanced and relaxed. Then gradually push her a little further and a little further each ride.

I hope I helped! Good luck!

"Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds."
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post #3 of 9 Old 03-02-2011, 02:00 PM
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Work over cavaletti at the trot.
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post #4 of 9 Old 03-02-2011, 02:12 PM
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I like to think for canter work that the "trot is a cure for all evil". Lol. But really, getting the trot down solid first will really help the canter to be balanced. I would do the different paces within the trot. Collected trot, medium trot, and extended trot. I'm guessing by your profile picture that you are riding her english so this should be good for her. Lots of transitions within the gait help the horse to focus on you and what your asking for. It sounds like your mare doesn't really know how to hold her own at the canter. You can also try lots of leg work. Leg yielding, side passing. If she's not taking up the correct leads, she doesn't know where her hips are.

Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work. ~Thomas Edison
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post #5 of 9 Old 03-02-2011, 03:01 PM
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lots of lateral movements will help w this as well to strenthen all muscles and her balance esp turns on the haunches to really get her to move and stretch those hind legs. whenever you canter once you get stronger in the trot only ask for a couple of nice collected canter strides at a time. you dont want to push too much bc holding a nice collected canter is very strenuous and hard work for them

"The horse you get off is not the same as the horse you got on; it is your job as a rider to ensure that as often as possible the change is for the better."
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post #6 of 9 Old 03-02-2011, 05:41 PM
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trot lots and as the person above mentioned, laterals.
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post #7 of 9 Old 03-02-2011, 06:22 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks guys! I think I'm giving my girl a bad rep lol, visually her canter isn't too bad (assuming she has the correct lead) it's just quite flat and green.. just looking to make it rounder and for her to be able to hold it longer.
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post #8 of 9 Old 03-03-2011, 02:13 PM
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Counter canter will strenthen the canter as will trot/canter transitions (from the butt - horses butt that is!).

Dressage is for Trainers!
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post #9 of 9 Old 03-03-2011, 10:37 PM
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Good trot work will help immensely, but ultimately, the only way she will get comfortable at the canter is to do a lot of it. Preferably out across pastures or along trails if you can. That reminds me so much of a mare that I broke last summer. When I got her, she loped like a deer (all 4 feet hit the ground and left the ground at the same time). With a lot of work and quite a bit of open country loping before I started her on circles, she flattened out wonderfully. She will never be smooth at the canter, but it did get to the point where I could sit her canter for several minutes before I had to stop to catch my breath.

Always remember that feeling of looking at a big, open country over the ears of a good horse, seeing a new trail unwind ahead of you, and that ever-spectacular view from the top of the ridge!!! Follow my training blog:
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